"Sole physical custody" award that incorporates significant parenting time to the other parent is not sole custody by definition, but joint custody instead

Recent ruling:
TC A Minor Child, by and through JC, Next Friend and JC, Individually v SI
Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District - WD7455

Father appeals from a judgment entered in the Circuit Court of Clay County in an action to establish the paternity of his daughter, T.C.C. Father challenges the trial court's decisions related to custody, visitation, and child support.


Where Father was awarded parenting time starting 7:15 a.m. Wednesday with an ending time alternating between 4:45 p.m. Thursday and 4:45 p.m. Friday, half of holidays, and an additional five consecutive days over the summer, the trial court erred in declaring Mother to have sole physical custody in light of the significant parenting time awarded to Father.

Though the trial court mislabeled the physical custody awarded in its judgment, it is unnecessary to remand for correction of the decree where this court can simply recognize and clarify that he is a joint physical custodian.

The question of whether or not a sole custody award to one parent with parenting time to the other parent is truly a sole physical custody award, the question is whether or not the parenting time awarded to the other parent is "significant". It has been held that a typical every other weekend with one evening per week schedule is "significant".

It is this author's belief that in most situations where the parents share parenting time on some sort of schedule, it is a joint physical custody arrangement rather than "sole custody with visitation" Care should be taken in the drafting of the parenting plan and the judgment to reflect the proper terminology, as sole custody and joint custody are clearly very different It would be only in the most restrictive of parenting plans where "sole custody with visitation" could legally exist.